tv Charlie Rose PBS February 14, 2013 11:00pm-12:00am PST
>> welcome to the program, tonight tony kushner who wrote the screenplay for steven spielberg's lincoln. >> when you read the major lincoln biographies and i feel by now i've read all of them, you get, you know, however many there are 10 or 12 that i think are really significant, you get 10 or 12 different abraham lynn cons, the basic facts aren't changed but the way that y interpret those facts he seems to be an indexhausably internable figure so you sort of pick which lincoln you want to-- you know, draum advertise. and lincoln that is created in team of rivals, the lincoln that she interprets in team of rivals is a fundamentally political guy. and he has other kinds of genius, he's a great writer, a statesman, moral visionary but more than anything else
in doris's book, he's a person who has an absolute consumeate mastery of political process. >> rose: we conclude with christopher waltz who stars in jango unchained. >> quentin really has this rock star persona but that's just one side. i like the other side. and it's there. and it's strong and that's where it's all base, literally based, it's all, that's where the center is. is not just incredibly smart. his horizon is enormous. and he can sort of faithom things or test the dark in subjects where you say where does he have it from. because any research you do on subjects that he would
captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> great tony kushner is here, 20 years ago he won the pulitzer prize for drama play angels in america since then he has been a consistent force in american theatre. ben brantley of the "new york times" once wrote mr. kushner makes words sing, summer sult as no other living american dram test does. this past year they reminded he was a screenwriter, he wrote the screenplay for lincoln which has been nominated for 12 academy awards including best adapted screenplay. here is the trailer for the film. >> we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. that this nation under god
shall have eye new birth of freedom that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth. >> we can't tell our people we can vote yes in abolishing slavery if at the same time we can tell them we are negotiating a peace >> you cannot have both. >> how many hundreds of thousands have died during your administration. >> hundreds must never declare equal, those who god created unequal. >> leave the constitution alone. >> stepped out on the world stage now. the fate human dignity in our hands. >> now, now, now. >> abraham lincoln has asked us to work with him to accompli the death of slavery. >> no one's ever been loved is so much by the people.
don't waste that power. >> this fight is for the united states of america. >> de choose to be born or are we fitted to the times we're born into. >> well, i done know about myself, you, maybe. >> this set els the fate for all coming times. not only the millions now in bondage, but of unborn millions to come. shall we stop this bleeding? >> i am pleased to have tony kushner back at this table. what does adapted screenplay mean.
because there's a lot more here than doris'sook. >> yeah, i mean the book in 2000 before doris had actually finished it and it was the book that steven asked me to adapt, i read it eagerly and i love it. i think it's a masterpiece. but team of rivals is a 900 page four-way political biography, the living definition of something that isn't going to make a feature length film. and steven i think knew that when he was getting chapter by chapter. so i think that whene say that it was adapted from team of rivals what we mean and i think is the credit, i'm not sure. i remember that it is inspired by. >> rose: inspired by. >> team of rivals which is not a dodge, r8. i mean the first time i ever encountered the story of the night over the 13th amendment was in team of rivals. i had never read in any of the other accounts of lincoln's life that i had read, and i hadn't red a lot before i started working on
this, any one who really even mentions that lincoln did this, it was a surprise to me to find it. so doris gets credit for introducing me and steven to this incident. but you know when you read the major lincoln biographies and i feel by now i've read all of them, you get, you know, however many there are 10 or 12 that i think are really significant. you get 10 or 12 different abraham lincolns. the basic facts aren't changed. but the way that you interpret those facts, he seems to be an indexhausably interpretable figure. and so you sort of pick which lincoln you want to, you know, draum advertise. and-- drama advertise and lincoln that doris creates in teement of rival, the lincoln she presents and interprets in team of rivals is a fundamentally political guy. he has other kinds of genius. he's a great writer. he's a statesman, moral visionary but more than anything else in doris's
book, he's a person who has an absolute con summate mastery of political process. and i found that incredibly appealing and steven found it incredibly appealing. so the bock gave us, you know, the field on which to embark on the journey to figure o how to dramatize this. and i worked with doris every week, sometimes every day i called her, e-mailed her. >> what would you e-mail her. what would you ask her. >> i would ask her if she understood why a certain event had happened. if she could understand why lincoln said this odd thing at this particular moment. i asked her if she knew of anyplace that i could go to look for more details about, for instance, bribery campaign that-- well, briber patronage, whatever you want to call t the sort of finessing of these lame duck democrats. >> to get votes. >> right and you know, and i
checked out with her when we were entering into what seemed to me to be sort of new terrain in terms of interpretation, that it felt to me that something was happening in this fight for the amendment that was actually rather significant. it wasn't a minor moment. and i felt nervous because i felt, well, why isn't it more widely known. i think the answer to that really is that the 13th amendment was completely eclipsed by the emancipation proclamation. so i checked out, you know, some of what i was reading about, history, some of my understanding of it with doris who is an actual historian. and we also talked to harold and jim mcpherson, i wanted to make sure that we had a solid sense of history underneath us as we were going forward especially once steven said that the whole movie was just going to be the fight for the amendment which seemed like an incredible, sort of gamble because you wouldn't think that you are going to make a movie about one of the few things in the lincoln years in the white
house that nobody even knows about. and i wanted to make sure that we weren't just making a lot out of a very minor moment. and doris helped me feel confident that we were on to something. she was very excited about the idea. and you know, she just immensely againerous and has this inkrepd-- ingetable sense of enthusiasm. if you say one thing that she likes, that's great, that's great, i love that that's great! >> rose: she w on this program recently. >> yeah, last night. and-- and it's genuine. she's really a tremendously passionate person. and so that infused the script. >> rose: two things. one this is why steven spielberg is steven spielberg, isn't it. >> you mean the decision to do this. yeah, i mean i don't think he gets enough credit for that. he has credit for having this incredible instinct for what will make hugely popular entertainment and credit for being this master-- . >> rose: storyteller. >> storyteller and camera
craftsman. i mean he's invented a lot of modern vocabulary for cinematic story still telling. but people don't really give him credit for the number of times in his career that he reinvents himself. i mean almost movie by movie. if he needs, whatever the movie demands he sort of becomes the director. you can always tell it is a spielberg film. but this is a really scary thing, in taking lincoln on as a subject is scary to begin with because it's the big american subject. and we didn't know daniel was going to play it so we didn't know where we were going to wind up. and this decision to focus on this kind of little political procedure once hi given him the script for it, i think was a really nervey decision. and he went to the set every day as de when we made munich, scared out of his-- he was scared. he said i don't know what i am doing. why did i do this, i don't know what i am doing. we should go to work every day, feeling terrified, or you're really boring yourself and you are probably going to bore other
people. i think it's amazing and incredibly moving for me to see this guy who is in his mid 60s who is, you know, has nothing to prove any more to anybody. going out and saying what happened. what would be new. what would be tough and difficult and you know w this film he had, you know, all this talking. and he had to just sort of let the talking happen. and he let it happen. it was incredibly skillful way. >> and the conversations you had with doris, are you seeking historical accuracy or that plus answers to motivation and what puts someone someplace in pursuit of some goal. >> it's more the latter. i mean the issue of accuracy, you know, i can always look up things and i have at this point a gigantic lincoln library and i had -- >> a lincoln room. >> a wonderful woman who was my research assistant and who helped me check and
triple check everything. so i didn't really want to burden door business that, a lot was motivation. lincoln say mysterious guy. with who can't always tell what he was thinking and doing. i became a dram test really eager to understand some of the weird things that happened. >> like what. >> for instance in the first draft of the screenplay which is 500 pages long, almost half the length of team of rivals, more than half. we went all the way from january, 1865 to the end of his life and we covered all four months in great detail. we wound up filming january, that is what the movie is. if you are film the whole thing would have been a 10 hour miniseries. but at the end of the last quarter of this script, dealt with lincoln's famous trip from washington to city point to be with grant for the collapse of siege lines outside st. peter burg and the union conquest of petersburg and the su rend
of of richmond and lincoln's famous trip to lincoln. and i was really inkrieged and inkrieged that most historians don't actually comment on this. when lincoln decided to go the day after richmond fell to union forces he decided to get on a boat and go up the james river to richmond. an walk through the streets of richmond. and admiral porter, one of the, hisdmirs who was going to take him said this is a dangerous trip. it's a crazy thing to do. and porter was really horrified when he learned that lincoln was going to bring his son tad who turned 12 the day that they left. and he said to lincoln you can't bring a little kid on this trip. it's-- it's criminal. i mean as a kid we could die on this trip. he. >> which is an odd thing, because it really was a genuine, they saled under confederate force that was still manned by soldiers who may not have heard that the war was over, or at loews that richmond had fallen who
still had guns on the river. and i remember calling doris and saying i don't understand what kind of father this is. and why don't more people talk about this. this is actually an irresponsible thing to do. we discussed it and we're still discussing it. it's a fascinating aspect of lincoln that there is this-- it's i think sort of emblematic of his relationship to his sons and the world this incredible compassion, he was just thinking of the world from tad's point of view and thinking he would just be crushed if i left him behind. and sort of abrogating his responsible as a parent to take care of this kid at the same tool. and also being somewhat removed from the, you know, focused on something else he had a mission to go, to richmond. and not quite connected to the specifics of what he was about to do. and there's that quality to lincoln that i found really fascinating. so you know, there were issues like that that just
came over. i mean i still don't understand how lincoln thought it was a good idea to make andrew johnson his second vice president. he had a perfectly good one. he got rid of him. the 1864 election and asked this guy who clearly was not going to be greet after the war in terms of reconstruction and freed slaves. and lincoln had been shot at many times before he was actually killed. and no president had been assassinated but he knew it was a possibility. so it seems to me difficult to unrsta h cohave made the mistake of-- . >> rose: so what conclusion did you come to? >> i think he sometimes over-- this is the only thing i will ever say critical of abraham lincoln. i think he sometimes over-- his ability to strategize, i think there was also an obsession behind it he was absolutely terrified of losing the 64 election. and he was right to be because george mcclellan as
president in november '64 and it came close, if sherr hand hadn't taken atlanta mcclellan probably could have won. and lincoln was doing everything coto keep the republican party together and to make sure that he got re-elected. and i think that johnson was from tennessee. he was loyal, union guy, and lincoln thought this will pull in the border states, this will calm down the democrats. >> same reason they chose lyndon johnson. >> people have chosen vice presidents in the case of kennedy he picked somebody who turned out to be, with the exception of the vietnam war, a very great president. >> the man ready to be president. >> yes, absolutely. and somebody, but johnson famously was possibleably drunk when he gave his acceptance, hisnaugal speech, the vice president used to give them on the floor of the senate in the 19th century. and johnson was either in a panic or was drunk. and gave an incoherent speech and sort of announced to everybody that he was going to be bad news. and he turned out to be-- . >> rose: bad news.
>> really, really bad news. and i think that lincoln didn't need to worry as much as he was worried but he had to make sure he had every angle covered and so he made a mistake. >> rose: so when the time you first, you obviously knew something about lincoln when i began this project, whenever that was. when was that. >> 2006. >> ros sten cas up. >> he called me. we had finished making munich. >> which i loved by the way. >> just that lunch scene out in the country was enough for me. >> isn't that great. that is so beautifully filmed. i really love it i had a blast making mune wick him, i just loved it. we had to deal with lot fers criticism from people. afterwards and we found that, you know, it was in a way it wasn't fun doing that but we were in the trenches together for a little while, responding to things and you know, standing by our position. or the position of the film, standing by the film. and we became i think close in a certain sense. and we just enjoyed working with each other. so he asked me about two months after the oscars were
done that year, if. >> i said no. >> and i said no for about six months and then -- >> why did you say no. >> it is abraham lincolnment and i thought, you know what we were just talking about. you want to understand motives. you want top understand was's going on inside the heads of characters that you create. and i have no hope of ever really understanding how abraham lincoln did what he did. any more than i have of understanding how shakespeare wrote hamlet or done giovanni or middle march. i don't know. i can't understand that. these people are geniuses. they have a function on a higher plane than most people and if i knew how to write hamlet i would write hamlet. and then we have something to talk about. but i -- >> we have a lot to talk about. >> we have a lot to talk about but i can't write hamlet any more than a chimp can write hamlet. so i thought this is just going to be a moving-- losing propositionment all i can do is fail. >> who needs this. >> and who needs it and who
is going to play lincoln and how he is to the going to look like a guy in a used car commercial on president's day and people are going to laugh. and then about six months later steven and cathy kennedy and doris pulled together what they described to me on the phone as a little meeting of a few lincoln historians at the st. regis hotel and they would like me to come and i can ask them any question i want. and i get to the hotel and it's this giant conference table and there are 20 of the country's leading lincolnists there including james mcpherson and i read battle cry of freedom and was just like oh my god t is james mcpherson, harold holtzer, all these guy, michael burlinggame, douglas wilson, all these people. and doris. and we spent six hours i think just asking them, and i got to hear them talk. and i was as moved and excited by the information as i was, i was equally moved by the way they spoke
to each other because we've all been to academic conferences where people really go after eachther and you have got a thesis and i'm going to just tear your head off. these people were so respectful of one another's work and genuinely grateful and appreciative. and there was doris whose book was going to be made into a spielberg movie and a huge hit and you would think there would be sen vey and there wasn't. they were really supportive of her. properlyly deferential to mcpherson it was like-- it was very moving. and i thought well the spirit of the man these people were studying really infused them. and doris as soon as we were done said the thing that really sorted turned the key. i said i still don't want to this, doris. i don't think i'm going to succeed. i can't do it i said listen, i felt that way when i started team of rivals. i don't know whether you will fail or succeed but i can only promise you one thing, will you never regret any of the time that you spend with an la-- abraham lincoln. and i thought what a great thing to say. >> rose: so at the end of the, when you finished and made the movie w what did
you think you knew about lincoln, did you not really know before? >> the thing that i think changed me and it was a great privilege and blessing to work on this during the obama years, i started during the bush years but by the time i figured out how to do the screenplay it was already '07. and by the time i got to the first draft we were a few month as which from the election. the o 8ee election. and i have been work og on lincoln all through the first term of office. the president obama had. and you know, i consider myself a person of the left. and i have left impatience with the pace of change and i am aware that people suffer terribly while they're waiting for change to happen. the most vulnerable people suffer the most terribly. and i'm a gay man and i've been waiting a long time for, you know, fallen franchisement and i'm still not there. but watching this president
and reading about that president, i really began to think long and hard about the processes of electoral democracy and the pace of change in an electoral democracy and what's possible, you know. they're not the same people by any means and the situation is not the same. t ihin you could say you could argue that barack obama faced in '08 a situation, you know, as bad as any president since the great depression. nothing is as bad as what lincoln arrived in washington to face. the country was literally disintegrating and the navy was staffed by people who were all leaving with their boats for the south. i mean it was a nightmare. but what obama inherited from the bush administration is, you know, we all remember, is just an absolute global catastrophe on every level. and i think he's ne an astonishing job beginning to turn that around. and like lincoln there has been an enormous amount of criticism of our president, our current president from
the left in terms of -- that comes from an impatience of, you said that you were, you know, going to do this and you said you were going to do that, why hasn't it happened. and the fact of the mat certificate that when are you elected president of the united states rather than king of the united states, you have to work with a very unwieldy machinery. >>omething that an ra lamb-- abraham lincoln really understood. >> and you know -- 50 years later, people are still misreading his motives. they still misread all the statements that he would take with all of its slaves in chains as being, you know, a drew expression of his desire this man who signed both the he man's nation proclamation and even though presidents don't sign an amendment, he signed the 13th amendment because he was proud of it. there's still some question about whether or not lincoln really wanted to free slaves. there's no question about that. he said those things because he was trying to keep the border states, that were
loyal to the union but still had slaves from going over the con fed rass eye. and these kpimss it that are necessary to make change happen. i think it deepened by faith in democracy. i think it made me feel more than ever that this system actually can work. >> right. >> and that if you believe in the people. >> yeah. >> but it has pushes and pulls and deals and -- >> i got to say this to the president when we went to the white house as a movie, what i think he's done that lincoln did was to constantly articulate for the people while making sausages, while making these compromises. the place that we're ultimately headed for, i think, that he's been very careful to say that he rejects the idea that government is evil. i mean i just saw a u.s. senator standing on the floor of the u.s. senate talking about taming the beast. and it's like, are you a u.s. senator this is not the beast. this is the federal government of the united states of america. it's a pauling for a u.s. senator to describe the
government as a beast. and i think that obama has made a very determined and conscious effort to keep saying over an over again, government is not the enemy. government is an expression of, you know, the better angels of our nature. government is our way as a society of expressing ourselves in history and historical time in action. and that's-- immensely important. >> the definition of the role of government is an ongoing theme of american politics. >> yeah, so you have people like these tea party people protesting government and then asked if they really want to give up their social security payments and they don't seem to know that that is actually part of what government is. there's a rejection of the sort of basic idea of human community behind the reagan, behind reagan era ideology that is really frightening. and it leads us to terrible, terrible places. and now that we're facing challenges like climate change t absolutely demand a
global collective response, an organized global collective response, we have no hope for survival as a species, if can continue down the path of this kind of psychotic individualism. the individual is very important but just as important to human beings is our relational capacity. and i think that-- i think it's slowly turning around. i think we're beginning to see, in the last election we saw, i think, a real rejection, of what romney basically will to offer was the same old trickle down nonsense and people said i don't believe it any more. >> do you think we have come 90% of the way on same-sex marriage? >> well, not 90%. i meane're so-- . >> rose: 50, 60. >> i don't know where we are yet. >> rose: somewhere that we were not four years ago in terms of the body politics. >> there's been amazing progress. some of it i think due to the president. i also got to say to him at the white house, i thought the way he handled same sex marriage was lincolnian.
he started out in '08 that i don't believe-- he said i believe marriage is between a man and woman but i'm evolving. and that was clearly code to anybody with a brain saying, you know, of course i believe in same-sex marriage. the constitutional law scholar, he understands the dince. >> but hispanics on the left did not like that. >> people took him at his word, read him fundamental-- literally which we shouldn't do, you interrupt barack obama clearly is a progressive person who understands the difference between secular marriage, government marriage-- you know, sanctioned marriage and reliss us institutions. so the idea that he was-- but as an african-american man running for president in 2008, maybe he thought he couldn't add to that also, that he was going to come out in favor of same-sex marriage. he picked a moment to say it and he picked exactly the right moment to say it. and when he said it, he also included lesbian-- families headed by lesbians and gay men and so he moved it not just to the area of marriage but to the area of families
and adoption as well. and he picked the right moment because it never became an issue in the election. >> angels in america, 20 years since you first-- put it on stage. >> old. >> i was young when i first came on the show. >> what is it about it that you think is so resonated. >> i think you can interpret it in a number of different ways. so i think it can be read as a very political play. harold bloom thinks it's a thee logical play. i think when mike nichols made the film version of it he really read it in a very specific personal drama. and i think he can take it in different ways and i think that helped it survive. apparently it has a lot of appeal to young people. it's taught in colleges a lot and that's given it a long life, i think. and i think it's connected to a moment, watershed moment in history it didn't in any way create that moment but it arrived just at the point at which the
country was beginning to get ready or was actually beginning to face up to what had happened in the 80s with the ep depic. a fantastic documentary, it's nominate ford an oscar called how to survive a plague. it's just a brilliant history of act up. and treatment in action group which is a subset of act up, and how they really very scrupulously pars how act up changed the nature of the face of the ep dimick, the national of the e7 dig. but those times which seem very distant now, the country did not face up to its responsibility. and angels arrived at a moment when it was starting to take stock of that. and also people needed a place to mourn and it was a certain amount of griefing in the play. >> tand was a play you had to write. >> yeah. i mean it was-- or i guess it was. it was the play i wrote.
so what do you, when you look forward from this day, so agels is 20 years old. lincoln is a-year-old. so what's the great obsession for you? >> i think that's an interesting question. i don't know. i mean i think america has won, angels is subtitled gay fantasia on national themes. and there is an attempt in the play, 30 years old when i wrote it, to try and think about this country and what its democratic experiment means. and i remember i think i read this in gary wells first, his wonderful book lincoln and getties berg which is before i started writing, thinking about the movie. when he-- i think it's in lincoln and getties burg that he is ward was annoyed with lincoln's use of the ward dedication to the proposition that all men are created equal. that he thought it was a chilly clinical word. but it's exactly the right word. i mean you know, the people
that died at getties burg, lincoln says testing whether, you know, this nation or any nation so conceived dedicated can long end dure. he wasn't speaking fansfully. democracy in 1856-- 1865 was still a question. and it's still a question today. i know so many people that walk up on election morning, you know, where i live on the upper west side at any rate, woke up thinking oh my god, what if at the end of the night we have mitt romney as president. and you know, what does that say about the american people. and what are-- is democracy a bad idea is what you start to think, you know. or have the people been so mislead and bamboozled that they without elect this really unworthi-- unworthy, sorry, matt, but ihink a person not worthy of the the office. and not reelect this guy who i think is one of our great presidents. and you get reconfirmed in your faith. but it's still a question. i mean you know, god doesn't really guarantee the
existence of our country. no divine right of kings does. we sort of made it up and we keep it going. and i think that's fascinating. and the question of, you know, endless national definition interests me. so i think that that is a thing that probably joins those two and pretty much everything that i did in between. >> so america is your subject. >> i think so. i'm also really interested in change, and the question of time and change. and you know, my last play, its intelligent homosexual capitalism and socialive. was very much about this. you know, when lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation karl marx of all people in england said abraham lincoln has now changed this conflict from a civil war to a revolution. and lincoln actually said similar things, or you know, and there's a deep, deep place in the popular imagination especially to
the left, imagination, for revolution. it's walter benajmin likens to the messiah coming. it is an important part of the imagination and i don't think we can ever get rid of it nor should we. but there is a question about whether or not historical change that happens in a fracturing, what kind of traformion that is. and whether or not a slower, more carefully built transformation is not better. and i don't know the answer to that. but that torements he me and i think about that a great deal. evolution versus revolution. and i think that that has been one. of the overarching themes of the stuff that i'm interested in. >> thank you for coming. >> it's a pleasure to talk to you. >> pleasure always. >> countries ton waltz is here. in 2010 he won the oscar for best supporting actor for his role as a saddistic corn nell quentin tarantino
inglorious bastard. now he tars in da, jango unchained. critics are saying it yet again runs away with the movie. nominate ford an oscar nor his performance. i am pleased to have him back at this table. welcome. >> thank you. >> rose: and congratulations. >> thanks very much. >> rose: so when quentin tarantino arrives with a part, what do you say? >> let me see the script. i'm not sure are you upt up to this. >> i don't know the general case. i justnowine. >> exactly. >> i'm talking about yours. and the first time it was completely different. because you know i was presented this. i said yeah, are you kidding me, ha ha. you know what do you want me to do. >> in this case, with django, he said would you mind coming up to my house. i will show you something. >> and he put 20 pages on the table, the kitchen table. >> like this.
>> and i said do you want me to read it. i said-- so i started reading it. he was hovering around, watching me. and i have never seen it before. >> no, no, no. >> almost hot off the press. >> nobody, literally. >> nobody has seen it before. >> so i read this. and you know, bottom of page 1 it kind of-- i start to get an inkling on the top of page 2, i kind of feel that he's trying to tell me something. >> rose: yeah. >> and telling, he did. you know, and this is how, you know t was 20 pages, a few weeks past, he called me up again, i read another 40 and so on until i got to the end of the script. >> rose: so what he is telling you. >> nothing. >> i mean literally. and i didn't say anything either. it was pretty clear. >> rose: but did you know
nothing about the character. >> nothing. >> rose: or was it the description of the character. >> are you looking at text. >> i was looking at text but i was looking at quentin's text. and by n i know quentin a little bit. and i was really touched that he trusts me with it. because i could run out and alert the media. no, no, i mean-- . >> rose: you could but you're not. >> no, no, and i'm-- in that respect i'm very trustworthy. so anyway, this thing was unfolding in front of me. and it kind of, you know, drew me in, sort of into the current until it swept me away. >> rose: what was it tha drew you in? >> it was, first of all t starts with a slaves being lead or rather driven across america or parts of it. and all of a sudden this character appears. >> rose: this is before the
civil war. >> in is very short time before the civil war, like maybe a year or a year and a half. >> an this character appears out of the dark, literally out of the dark with a little lan fern, a little light dances through the dark, and from then on everything changes. >> rose: when did he offer you the part? >> that was it. that was the offer. and to come to think of it, we never talked about it. an in a way i am up to this moment i never thought about true, there was no official, it was kind of a self-evident. >> rose: characterize him, define him. >> quentin. >> rose: yes. >> that's almost an
extremely private thing for me. because because i can gladdy say as much as quentin really has this rock star persona, you go that's just one side. i like its other side and it's there. and it's strong. and that's where it's all based, literally based, it's all, that's where the center is. he's not just incredibly smart his horizon is-- and he can sort of fathom things or test the dark in subjects where he is saying where does he have it from. because any research you do on subjects that he would kind of skim is opens up the
whole world for you. it's a universal. >> rose: he believes or he says, and i know he believes, that his scripts have poetry and he wants his actors to get the poetry. and you got it more than anybody. >> well, thank you. well i don't know. i go with what's there. i-- . >> rose: is it poetry for you? yes, absolutely. because there's rhythm, there's metrum. there's images, melody, there's everything that language can do, app depicting a world that is a times radically different from what we are lead to
believe is reality. who n tell. >> rose: tell me who your character is and tell me who jango is. >> the wonderful thing is,s this's why i refer to this light in the dark at the very beginning. in a way that's what this character is. it brings-- . >> rose: a light and a dark. >> a little light into the dark. and you know, if this light is passed from one to the other, it enlightens the area around it. and i think this was its objective of my character. whereas jango was the person living in the dark and taking on the light n a way. >> rose: so you two come together. >> yeah. >> rose: to do what? >> to first find three criminals that my character
is hunting as it turns out, a bounty hunter. and once that is done, to go and liberate django's wif >> rose: roll tape. here's a clip. >> do you know what a bowne lundter is? >> no. >> well, the way the slaves trade deals in human lives for cash, a bounty hunter deals in corporations. >> the state places a bwne on a man's head. i track that man, i fine that man. i kill that man. after i kill him, i transport that man's corps back to the authorities. sometimes that's easier said tan done. i show that corps to the authority, proving yes, indeed, i truly have killed
him. at which point the authorities pay me the bounty. so like slavery it's a flesh for cash business. >> what's a bounty? >> it is like a reward. >> you kill people and they give you a rewd. >> certain people, yeah. >> bad people. >> badder they are, bigger the reward. >> rose: just tell me about that scene. >> i just noticed something that i hadn't noticed before, or at least not as strongly. when i really, really liked about my character was django says what's a bounty. and he doesn't say you don't know what a bounty is? he says the question was what's a bounty, he says what a buntys. >> rose: he tells him what it is. >> yeah. >> rose: you like that because -- >> it is just, i like it because this is really sort
of the quinn tessence of this whole relationship this is somebody who comes over from europe, for possibly varying interesting reasons given the fact that we are talking about 1858, 1859. and you know, ten years prior though a a lot of interesting things happened in europe meaning social upheaval, revolution and bloodbaths too thwart that revolution, all that. a lot of people had to flee. a lot of people came to america. it was-- and to the north, of course, because it was a haven for people escaping oppression and seeking fee dom. so that this person would import that traditional not traditional but by then having established itself
enlightened view of the world to a very unenlightened area of this planet or this country. that's-- . >> rose: mannerisms, voice, sort of presence s that the 9% the acting skill or is that-- 99 percent the acting skill or is that-- a lot of that the character you read from the text wferning actually all of it is the character. >> all of it. >> so youread something of the text, he said i know exactly what to do. you didn't sit there and say i've got this character. i know he does these words, how i do best -- >> no, you know, i have no clue. i have no clue what to do when i read this. i see what i do as translating text into action. and in order to do that, i try to find out what it is,
not how to do it. i find that how am i going to do it question or it all depends on how do you it. i find that not only pretty borning, i find it futile because that's not the vert crossity of your craft is not really what's required in telling a story. it might help once in a while once you get into a tight corner, yeah. but it is in a little bit with got that with pianists or violinists a lot that they are technically perfect. >>ight. >> and you for example even musically on an enormously high level, and all that, but it's vertioso and doesn't go beyond that. i wish i would mare one of the great pianists make a mistake once. i don't want to know that they practiced a lot. i want to know how they feel
about the music they are playing. >> rose: give you an insight into the music. >> yeah, into the music, not into their technical abilities. and that same thing is true for acting. you want to give an insight into the stories that's intended, and not into your technical or technical automobiles or mostly vanities or whatever you are proud of. >> rose: how does he direct? >> is he there, is he, you know, or by the time you hit the stage, what you are doing is in a sense excuating his plan. >> well, i think he has a very concrete plan and then he goes with its performance. >> ah. >> and's ban dawned his plan willingly and sometimes even happily if the performances lead him somewhere else. that doesn't mean that he does not have a plan. his-- he lives within this
story for, you know, really starting from when he puts pen to paper. and he literally does put pen to paper when he starts writing. >> i watched him. after inglorious was turds, on that performance, you had 24 wonderful quote which y said quentin, gave me back your career. what did you mean? >> actually, i-- correct me as you may. >> i'm sorry. it's a little-- i don't mean to be, you know, but i said he gave me back my vocation. >> oh, vocation, very much. and a smart correction. >> because i had my career, that was puttering along, sort of in immediate yok rit. which -- med yok rity which was lot of reason for frustration but coy make a decent living. and you know. >> you were doing television and other things. >> television and stage and
you know, the occasional movie. but as it kind of, as the wear and tear of somewha somewhat-- existence sets in over the decades, and i always tried to really put what i have at mydispal into what i do. because that's why i do it. and increasingly so i saw that nobody cares. they're not interested in what i have. and they used it. they said one of the executives fv executives in german said yeah, not him, qu use him for quirky minor parts. and that hurt. >> yeah. >> because i was really not just years and years and
years, but my whole-- my whole everything i put in what i do. so i tried to, tried to get my own stuff together. started writing. started directing, povies fall ago part for the same reason y would he direct. can make a living as an actor. literally i heard that. and i lost faith. i didn't lose my pig headness but i lost faith. and all of a sudden, you know, quentin plucks me out of that, and puts me in exactly the context that i always wanted to be in. and all of a sudden i had the feeling that yeah, what i am after and what i have to offer is actually welcome. >> and there has been a
continuation of that. >> yeah, it's really-- i say that every other day. i feel like having to go down on my knees and thinking whofer it is. >> i'm overwell amed by the story, just the sheer, knowing what you had put into it, before and then knowing how life is so mercurial and so, no matter how much talent you have, it is, everybody likes to think that talents out. >> hi an extraordinary meeting about 35 years ago, which gene dollriferp el, a producer and she produced all the original roger & hammer stien on broadway and she was an old lady when i met her, through a friend. and she stormed into the room and satz down on the chair in front of me app her feet weren't even touching
the floor. she was tiny. and she said so, you're an actor. she said i can see right away that you are a fabulous acto and i was completely flattered because i was like 20-- i don't know --. and someone actually could see it in me without me doing anything. and then she said but let me tell you this. nobody gives a-- the only thing that matter is who do you know and who don't you know. so that was really an eye opener. because she said it in this very, very honest but icab and approachable way. she kind of broke it down into digestible bite size for me. because you know, a young actor full of verve and
ambition to be told who cares whether are you talented or not. >> rose: it depends on who you know. >> and who you don't know. and she was right. >> she was right. now i know quentin. >> rose: that's exactly the in-line of that story, isn't it. now i know quentin. but it's whole a whole range of other people too who come in, who understand and who contribute to this kind of thing that make quentin who quentin is. >> no, no, it's-- that's what in the end macks a culture. >> yeah. it's amazing to me. so when you look at where you are, what are the choices you have to make? >> there are geographical choices to be made. >> you still live in berlin. >> well, i kind of fluctuate now. given the 10,000 miles in between, it's an arduous-- .
>> rose: yeah, it is. >> endeavor. but then theres is the choice, do i bring my family to the u.s. which most probably will happen, sooner or later. but what does that do to family life, to, you know, my daughter who is-- who would love it but i'm not sure that she will love it for the reasons that would love it for. i have a friend who moved back to the united states and was very worried about how his kid was adopt, having lived in france for six or seven years and are early teens and was worried to deft that they would adopt to the united states. he said to me, it took them 30 seconds. >> exactly. >> i spoke to the general counsel sul in los angeles, its german one. and he said i ha been he for so many years now.
and my children grow up-- grew up here and one of them plays the harmonica, yeah. and then one day she was practicing and she was practicing america the beautiful. i knew was time to go back home. (laughter) >> rose: that's great. congratulations. >> thank you. it's always great to you have here. >> thank you very, very much. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org